COLUMBIA -- Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, came to South Carolina on Saturday to warn the state about the consequences of the Democrats' control in Washington.

"We've got to let nothing keep us from victory in 2010," Rove said.

Rove made his comments at the state Republicans' Silver Elephant Banquet, which is now in its 43rd year. More than 700 party elite gathered for the GOP's signature fundraiser.

Rove spent most of his speech criticizing President Barack Obama for his actions since his election. Rove said Obama presented himself as a centrist on the campaign trail but after November 2008, he said, Obama moved immediately to pass the $787 billion stimulus package. The spending bill is now up to $862 billion, Rove said.

"Fundamentally, they are saying you can spend your way to prosperity," Rove said. "You cannot spend your way to prosperity. You will save and invest and work your way to prosperity."

Obama continues his track record with the new health care law, Rove said. He said America is in for trouble as the coverage rolls out and the cost runs up.

"I'm furious about this because it shows the worst of Washington and the president of the United States sanctions it," he said.

The party had a second VIP guest in attendance. Andrew Card, former chief of staff for Bush, also traveled to South Carolina for the event. Card is a graduate of the University of South Carolina.

Rove was a White House senior adviser from 2000 to 2007 and was nicknamed "The Architect" for his work on Bush's campaigns. His book "Courage and Consequence: My life as a conservative in the fight" is currently a national best-seller.

State party chairwoman Karen Floyd rallied her party around the conservative message. She said the party foundation is grounded in a few principles.

"We believe that God, not government, is our salvation," Floyd said. "We believe that capitalism, not socialism, is the answer."

Gov. Mark Sanford took the stage at the annual dinner for the last time as chief executive. He received a standing ovation as he made his way to the stage.

He told the crowd, "Thank you for the many kindnesses to me, Jenny and our four boys."

Sanford said that in the latest "chapter" of his life, he has learned more about friendship, prayers and forgiveness than in any other point of his life.

The Republicans took over the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center after the Democrats packed up Saturday. The Democratic Party's annual fundraiser the Jefferson- Jackson Dinner on Friday featured U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or ywenger@postandcourier.com.